The Lethbridge Hurricanes are set to open the Western Hockey League (WHL) season next week — hosting the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday, Sept. 20 — and for the team’s season ticket holders, Tuesday night was a chance to pick up ticket packages and meet the team.
For a few of the nearly 2,300 season ticket members, a select few have been around since day one.
“Since the beginning,” laughed Vern Vollendorf, a who has had season tickets since the Hurricanes’ inaugural season in Lethbridge. “Once the Broncos left I got really lonely and became a shareholder when they started up the Hurricanes.
“I really enjoy the hockey. It’s very entertaining to watch young fellas who go up into the NHL.”
The franchise has been in Lethbridge since 1987, shortly after the Lethbridge Broncos left the city to become the Swift Current Broncos.
For those who have been around over the years, an impressive list of alumni have come through the organization.
“Starting right from the days of Bryan Trottier and Brian Sutter as Broncos,” said John Talerico, another season ticket holder since 1987.
“I love junior hockey. I think the kids are awesome to watch, and it’s always neat to follow their careers once they move on from here.”
For both Vollendorf and Talerico, the highlight as fans came more than 20 years ago, when the Hurricanes captured their first — and only — WHL Championship in the 1996-97 season, and finished as runners-up in the Memorial Cup.
WATCH: (Aug. 30, 2019) Hurricanes’ roster full of new faces as main camp begins
Both long-time fans recognize the excitement surrounding each new season, and this year’s edition of the Hurricanes will look for a fifth-straight playoff berth — and they will have to do so with a roster that faced significant turnover in the off-season.
Anholt and his staff also have some questions that they will have to wait to answer, as six of their WHL-eligible players are participating in NHL camps.
Jordy Bellerive, 20, and Calen Addison, 19, are both attending the Pittsburgh Penguins’ camp; Nick Henry, 20, and Logan Barlage, 18, are with the Colorado Avalanche; Jake Leschyshyn, 20, is at the Vegas Golden Knights’ camp; while Dylan Cozens, 18, is in Buffalo with the Sabres, after being picked 8th overall in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
WATCH: (April 3, 2019) Lethbridge Hurricanes reflect on 2018-19 season
Anholt said Tuesday that Barlage — undrafted in June, but invited to his first NHL camp by the Avalanche — will rejoin the Hurricanes this week, but the ‘Canes will have to wait and see if they will have any of the other five veteran players available.
The Hurricanes have two final preseason games this week — at home Friday against the Swift Current Broncos, and in Swift Current to face the Broncos again Saturday — before they open the season on home ice, Friday, Sept. 20.